Anchorage is one of the few North American cities that depend on a glacier for most of their drinking water. The Eklutna glacier also provides some of the city's electricity, through hydro power. So a team of researchers is working to answer a very important question: How long will the glacier's water supply last?
To get that answer, those researchers have to shovel a lot of snow. "It gets to be the consistency of really strong Styrofoam once you get down, maybe six or eight feet," glaciologist Louis Sass says as he flings pristine snow out of a growing hole in the glacier.
The Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development was the biggest United Nations conference ever, but it may be one of the biggest duds. It produced no major agreements — just a vaguely worded declaration that has been widely derided.
More than 45,000 people registered for the event in Rio de Janeiro, but diplomats couldn't even agree about the meeting's objective until 2:45 a.m. on Tuesday, just before heads of state and other high-level delegates started arriving in Rio.
The federal government could soon give the final go-ahead for Royal Dutch Shell to begin drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. Shell has spent $4 billion since 2007 to prepare for this work, and is hoping to tap into vast new deposits of oil.
But the plan to drill exploratory wells is controversial — opposed by environmental groups and some indigenous people as well.
Beaches on the West Coast are getting a regular dose of debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. The first few items were curiosities — a boat here, a soccer ball there — but as the litter accumulates, officials such as Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire have acknowledged the scale of the problem.
"We are in for a steady dribble of tsunami debris over the next few years, so any response by us must be well-planned — and it will be," she said.
Beyond the obvious problem of litter, officials are on the lookout for hidden dangers.
The Environmental Working Group, a non-profit health advocacy organization, says you should be concerned about pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables, but not so concerned that you stop eating these foods.
Diplomats and activists from around the world are meeting in Rio de Janeiro this week to talk about how the planet's growing population can live better lives without damaging the environment. The Rio+20 meeting marks the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio, a watershed meeting to address topics as diverse as climate change and biodiversity.
At this follow-up meeting, delegates hope to highlight an issue that was almost absent from the Earth Summit: making energy available to everyone in the world.
Ash and charred debris from the largest wildfire in New Mexico's history are threatening the survival of the Gila trout. Biologists are trying to save the fish by using electroshock to temporarily stun the trout and re-locate it to a hatchery. The trout is an endangered species that can be found only in four streams within the Gila Wilderness. Melissa Blocks talks to Jim Brooks, Project Leader of the New Mexico Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, about his team's efforts to save the trout.
Ever wanted to just disappear into a secret garden of earthly delights, of twists and turns of evocative ruin, exuberant tropics, the Zen of a Japanese teahouse?
Consider Chanticleer, in Wayne, Pa. It's part of the old Main Line ring of estates around Philadelphia. In fact, right across the street from the garden is the former home of Helen Hope Montgomery Scott, the heiress portrayed by Katherine Hepburn in Philadelphia Story.
A moray eel, a flock of geese and a shrunken head are just a few of the things found in and around Her Deepness' office. Earle, an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic, has desks all over the country. A few months ago we stopped by her Oakland home-base for the next installment in our Desktop Diaries series.
The famous paintings on the walls of caves in Europe mark the beginning of figurative art and a great leap forward for human culture.
But now a novel method of determining the age of some of those cave paintings questions their provenance. Not that they're fakes — only that it might not have been modern humans who made them.
The first European cave paintings are thought to have been made over 30,000 years ago. Most depict animals and hunters. Some of the eeriest are stencils of human hands, apparently made by blowing a spray of pigment over a hand held up to a wall.
A new study shows that in coming years, the frequency of wildfires will increase because of climate change. Audie Cornish talks to Max Moritz, lead author of the study at University of California-Berkeley.
Colorado's High Park Fire northwest of Fort Collins has topped 46,000 acres, making it one of the largest wildfires in the state's history. It's also destroyed more than 100 buildings. But firefighters are beginning to gain ground and have started containing the blaze.
Scientists on an expedition off the coast of Alaska found something they had long thought was impossible. Beneath two, three, even four feet of ice in the frozen Chukchi Sea, they found algae. Not just a little but a bloom that ran at least 60 miles wide. The team just published its findings in the journal Science.
Here to tell us why it's a big deal is the man who led the expedition, Kevin Arrigo, professor of environmental earth systems science at Stanford University. Professor Arrigo, thanks for talking with us.
Kristen Iversen spent years in Europe looking for things to write about before realizing that biggest story she'd ever cover was in the backyard where she grew up. Iversen spent her childhood in Colorado close to the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons factory, playing in fields and swimming in lakes and streams that it now appears were contaminated with plutonium. Later, as a single mother, Iversen worked at the plant but knew little of its environmental and health risks until she saw a feature about it on Nightline.
Like most members of the Penobscot Nation, Scott Phillips grew up near the Penobscot River and learned to paddle and fish as a young boy. He took to it like a duck to water. He became a competitive racer and eventually opened his own business selling canoes, kayaks and other outdoor gear.
Next week, the first of two dams on the river will be removed, altering the way it's used recreationally. The change could also be a boon to Phillip's business.
Survivors say the wall of water was like a tsunami that destroyed nearly everything in its path as it roared through a Black Hills canyon and into town. The flash flood that hit Rapid City, S.D., on June 9, 1972, was one of the worst floods in U.S. history. It killed 238 people and damaged or washed away more than 1,300 homes.
On Saturday, the city will read the names of those who died and reflect on how the flood changed the way the city and others towns across the country built themselves.
A bizarre event has drawn scientists to a beach in Oregon — a floating concrete dock from Japan has washed ashore. It had been ripped from its moorings by last year's tsunami and floated across the Pacific.
The dock is encrusted with mussels, barnacles and other marine life from Asia. Scientists are amazed these organisms survived the 14-month voyage, but they're also worried some of these organisms could become pests in U.S. waters.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. We're still weeks away from the hottest and driest part of the year, and fire season is already well underway: Colorado, Nevada, Utah, California, Arizona, New Mexico. In a few minutes, we'll talk with a meteorologist who tries to forecast fire conditions, and we'll focus on the pilots who swoop through smoke and turbulence to drop retardant on wildfires. Two of them died in the crash of an elderly plane in Utah on Sunday.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, during his long and varied career, Oscar winner Morgan Freeman has played everyone from soldiers to servants, from cowboys to criminals - not to mention the almighty. In a moment, he'll tell us what music he plays for inspiration. That's our feature we call In Your Ear, and it's just ahead.
Bedbug infestations can be maddening. So readily available bug bombs that fill the house with a pesticide fog are understandably tempting. But research shows they're not likely to work.
Writing in the Journal of Economic Entomology, researchers from Ohio State University say they tested three popular bug bomb products on five different populations of bedbugs, collected "in the wild" from homes around Ohio. All three products failed miserably.
It's hard to go a day without hearing people brag about how they eat local. In-the-know consumers wax poetic about their local farmers' markets, and some even make pilgrimages to meet their rancher, visit cows grazing and see pigs playing happily in the mud.
And now for our Video Pick of the Week. Flora's still here and positioned perfectly to take us on a safari.
FLORA LICHTMAN, BYLINE: We're still on safari.
FLATOW: We're still on safari.
LICHTMAN: The safari continues, this time to slightly larger organisms. See if you can see with your naked eye, and maybe in your own backyard. These guys are glow-in-the-dark - I have you already, don't I?
LICHTMAN: Millipedes - which, I didn't know - let me - can I tell you the story of how this came about?
Scientists at the University of Leeds are exploring ways to use magnetic bacteria to build biocomputers of the future. Meanwhile, another group of researchers, reporting in Science, write that they have unearthed deep-sea microbe that live off nutrients from the dinosaur age.
Late spring in a New England vegetable garden is usually a time for the last asparagus, the crisp lettuce and arugula, the first pea shoots, and the first sprouting of warm-weather crops like peppers and zucchini. What you don't expect to see planted in your beds are snapping turtles. But that's just what turned up in mine twice this week.
The final round of the 2012 National Geographic Bee takes place Thursday, with students between the fourth and eighth grades testing their knowledge of countries, canals and lava lakes. Of the 54 contestants who came to the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., for the bee, only 10 remain.
Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan and nomadic herders, is in the midst of a remarkable transition. Rich in coal, gold and copper, this country of fewer than 3 million people in Central Asia is riding a mineral boom that is expected to more than double its GDP within a decade. The rapid changes simultaneously excite and unnerve many Mongolians, who hope mining can help pull many out of poverty, but worry it will ravage the environment and further erode the nation's distinctive, nomadic identity.